By: Stephen Betts
December 06, 2002
The chairman of a state panel looking at designing a state-run, single-payer health care system said a consultant’s report leaves him convinced such a system is doable.
Paul Volenik, who represented Vinalhaven and North Haven in House District 129 for eight years until Wednesday, said the committee will make a formal presentation to the state Legislature next month.
He said Thursday he is hopeful a single-payer system can be approved, whether it is this year or another year.
The report by Mathematica Policy Research of Washi-ngton, D.C., finds that a single-payer system compared to the current system would either cost the same or cost 5 percent more, depending on the benefits provided under a single-payer system.
Mathematica is projecting $8.3 billion will be spent on health care in Maine in 2004 and that will jump to $10.6 billion by 2008 under the current system.
But Volenik noted that with the current system, 150,000 Mainers have no health insurance. He said even if a single-payer system costs 5 percent more than the current one, it would be worth it insure everybody.
The consultants were conservative when calculating the administrative savings a single-payer system would reap, he noted. Eventually, there will be more savings as people with insurance become healthier and costs are lessened.
The current way of financing health care, through taxes for Medicaid and privately financed insurance through businesses and individuals, would be replaced with a payroll tax, Volenik said.
The tax could be 12 to 16 percent, he said, with one model calling for the employer to pay 8 percent and the worker 4 percent. This system would ensure that the people most able to pay would pay the most.
He said businesses that do not contribute anything for their employees’ health insurance would incur greater costs. However, some businesses would pay less, as would employees, many of whom already pay a high price for coverage.
For instance, a person earning $20,000 annually would have to pay $800 if the employee portion of the payroll tax was 4 percent. That $800 is less than what most people pay for their share of insurance premiums, he noted.
Volenik was a major proponent of a single-payer system during his years in the Legislature. He convinced the state to form the 19-member Health Security Board, which has been meeting frequently and hired the consultant to work on a model for a single-payer system.
©Courier Gazette 2002